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Why does my hearing aid whistle? How do I stop my hearing aid from whistling?

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Written By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert & Founder

Updated: 12th October 2023
Why is your hearing aid whistling?

Why is my hearing aid whistling?

How to prevent any sound leakage from your hearing aids and how to fix any feedback issues

 

Why is my hearing aid producing a whistling sound?

Whistling hearing aids, while designed to improve the quality of life for individuals with hearing challenges, often introduce an unwelcome disturbance into the listening experience. This recurrent, high-pitched feedback sound, akin to a whistle, can be not only bothersome but socially uncomfortable.

In this article, we delve into the common causes of whistling in hearing aids, ranging from poor fit to earwax blockages and explore innovative solutions and technologies that aim to eliminate this annoyance.

We'll also discuss tips for users to mitigate whistling and enhance their overall hearing aid experience, empowering them to enjoy the world of sound without interruptions.

 

Hearing aid whistling can be common

Those who wear hearing aids sometimes complain about whistling noises coming from their hearing aids and the annoyance they bring.  Because of the nature of hearing aids, feedback can occur, which creates a high-pitched sound that can be unbearable to listen to for long periods of time.  However, this problem is easily fixed. 

 What to do when your hearing aids whistle

How do I stop my hearing aid from whistling?

Experiencing a whistling sound from your hearing aid can be both irritating and potentially embarrassing when it's audible to those around you. This high-pitched noise is a form of feedback generated by the hearing aid. The good news is that there are typically steps you can take to address this issue.

Commonly, a hearing aid produces whistling or squeaking sounds when the ear mold is not correctly positioned. To prevent any sound leakage and, subsequently, the whistling, the ear mold needs to fit snugly within your ear.

If you're still encountering feedback, consider the following tips to mitigate this bothersome whistling:

 

Earwax:  Keep your ears clean.  Earwax build-up in the ear canal can obstruct sound transmission, causing it to be forced back out and creating a high-pitched whistle. You can attempt to resolve this by applying a few drops of olive oil to your ear in the morning and at night for five consecutive days.

If there's no improvement, consult your GP, who may prescribe ear drops or schedule an ear syringing procedure to safely remove any remaining wax.

 

Hearing aid volume:  Reduce the volume to a comfortable level that still allows you to hear clearly.  Wearing your hearing aids at maximum volume may lead to unwanted noise. If you find yourself needing the highest volume setting consistently to hear properly, it's advisable to consult an audiologist to assess your hearing and verify the proper functioning of your hearing aid.

 

Proximity:  Why does my hearing aid whistle when I touch it?  Try to avoid covering or touching your hearing aids.  Proximity to certain objects can cause some hearing aids to whistle. Audiologists often conduct tests by moving their hand close to the hearing aid to check for feedback. If this occurs, discuss the issue with your audiologist.

You may have noticed that hugging people on the side with the hearing aid can lead to feedback, so consider directing friends and relatives to the side without the hearing aid, if applicable, to reduce feedback.

 

Wearing hats:  Using a cap to cover your hearing aids can also result in whistling. In such cases, try reducing the volume or removing the cap.  Hearing aids may whistle when wearing hats because the hat's fabric or material can obstruct the hearing aid's microphone or receiver. This interference disrupts the hearing aid's functionality, causing feedback.

To prevent whistling while wearing hats, consider hat styles that allow adequate space around your hearing aids or use accessories like hearing aid retention clips.

 

Eating:  Why does my hearing aid whistle when I eat?  Jaw movements such as chewing or smiling can cause feedback.  Hearing aids may whistle while eating due to changes in the shape of the ear canal caused by jaw movement. This movement can temporarily affect the seal between the ear canal and the hearing aid, creating feedback.

It's a common occurrence, but ensuring a snug fit and seeking professional adjustments can help mitigate the issue.

 

Change in body shape:  Be aware that changes in your weight, either gain or loss, can lead to an improper fit, causing the hearing aid to produce a whistling sound. Consult your audiologist to obtain a new or modified ear mold.

 

Old hearing aid parts:  The plastic tube that connects some hearing aids to the ear mold can harden and shrink over time, pulling the ear mold out of its correct position and causing whistling. If the tubing or ear molds are loose or damaged, they may need adjustment or replacement by your audiologist.

Your audiologist can assist with this as part of the aftercare service.

 

The fit:  Make sure the earpiece and ear mold are correctly positioned and snug within your ear.  Whistling may also occur when inserting the hearing aid if there's an imperfect fit between the earpiece and the ear. Modern hearing aids typically incorporate a brief delay between closing the battery case (which activates the aid) and the electronics starting up.

Quickly placing the hearing aid in your ear can often prevent the whistling. You can try turning on the aid (closing the battery case) once it's properly positioned, although this might be more challenging for those with longer hair.

You could also consider an open-fit hearing aid.  Open-fit hearing aids, which allow some natural sound to enter the ear, can be a solution for some users. They are less prone to whistling.

 

Whistling hearing aids

Why your hearing aid may have started whistling

How to avoid your hearing aids whistling in the future

 

What to do if your hearing aids are still whistling

Use the feedback cancellation features available to you.  Many modern hearing aids come with feedback cancellation features that can automatically detect and eliminate whistling.  In noisy environments, hearing aids can sometimes struggle to differentiate between the desired sound and background noise, leading to feedback.

Adjust your hearing aid settings to minimise background noise by accessing any Background Noise Cancellation features available to you.  Your audiologist can fine-tune your hearing aids to minimise feedback. Regular check-ups and adjustments can also help prevent whistling.

 

Talk to your audiologist about IIC hearing aids and upgrading

If you're still struggling with feedback and don't already have an Invisible in Canal (IIC) hearing aid, consider exploring this option. IIC hearing aids can effectively eliminate feedback whistling, employing cutting-edge digital technology to enhance sound quality and custom-fitting entirely within your ear canal.

For instance, most IIC hearing aids offer features like feedback suppression and wind noise reduction for outdoor clarity, as well as a music mode for clearer musical notes without feedback or distortion.

 

In conclusion and how to prevent your hearing aids from whistling

In today's age of advanced technology, most modern hearing aids come equipped with automatic feedback cancellation features. However, whistling issues can still arise, necessitating proactive measures.

Begin by ensuring your hearing aids are free from potential obstructions, such as hats, scarves or earmuffs. Also, be cautious not to wear them while sleeping, as this could inadvertently trap sound within the receiver - creating a feedback loop.

In your daily routine, prioritise keeping the hearing aid or earmold securely positioned in your ear to prevent feedback. If your device has volume control, it's advisable to maintain it close to the default setting.

Lastly, regular ear check-ups are crucial to detect and address earwax buildup, which can harm your hearing aids and trigger the troublesome whistling noise.

Whistling hearing aids can be incredibly vexing, but with these precautions, you can minimise the issue. If problems persist, seek guidance from an audiologist or your GP to effectively eliminate hearing aid whistling.

 

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Need more support?

If you continue to experience whistling despite these efforts, consider discussing feedback reduction technologies and more advanced hearing aid models with your audiologist.  Remember that each person's experience with hearing aids may be unique, and the causes of whistling can vary.

Consulting with your audiologist is essential to pinpoint and address the specific issues leading to feedback and to find the most effective solutions tailored to your needs.

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This article was written by Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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